More evacuation orders were issued early on Friday due to a large wildfire in British Columbia, Canada, as firefighters battle advancing flames to evacuate all residents of the remote northern city of Yellowknife.
Early on Friday, Kelowna, a city with a population of around 150,000 that is located about four drives from Vancouver, declared a state of emergency.
According to a statement sent by the City of Kelowna early on Friday, “Residents under Evacuation Alert are advised to be ready to leave their home at a moment’s notice,” adding that residents should be ready to spend a lot of time away from their homes.
The evacuation orders were issued after spot fires in Kelowna were started by flames that were found on Tuesday and leapt Lake Okanagan.
Firefighters and water bombers are battling a large wildfire in Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, which has compelled the evacuation of the whole city’s 20,000 residents.
Around 1,500 people were transported out of the city by ten evacuation planes on Thursday, and another 22 flights are scheduled for Friday, according to the authorities. Thousands of people also left the city by road.
Images showed long lines of people waiting to register for evacuation planes as fires raged on each side of the city’s main highway.
“Nobody envisioned an event of this scale. It’s still really stressful. There are a lot of people still left in Yellowknife that are freaking out,” said resident Tebbia Teoncey, who was evacuated to Edmonton, Alberta.
Officials reported that winds on Thursday limited the enormous fire’s progress to around one kilometer to the northwest of Yellowknife. Authorities anticipate that the fires, which are currently around 15 km from the city, may spread to Yellowknife’s outskirts by the weekend.
“We’re heading into a critical couple of days in management of this wildfire,” Mike Westwick, the fire information officer for Yellowknife told reporters on Thursday.
“Those are winds that will trend both of those fires in directions that we don’t want,” he added.
With more than 1,000 active fires burning across the nation, including 265 in the Northwest Territories, this year’s worst-on-record Canadian wildfire season is highlighted by the extent of the fire risk and disruption to life and land.
According to experts, wildfire issues have gotten worse due to climate change. Officials claim that the quantity and severity of fires this year have been influenced by drought, with high temperatures compounding the problem. Conditions have been unusually dry in much of Canada.
46,000 people, or around 65% of the population, are expected to be evacuated.
The focus is now shifting to the western province of British Columbia, where dry lightning poses a threat to ignite further fires in its sun-baked forests while the evacuation effort in Yellowknife advances. On Thursday, the Westbank First Nation and the City of West Kelowna issued a local state of emergency, putting nearly 5,500 houses on evacuation notice.
British Columbia officials have advised citizens to get ready for extremely severe fire conditions after the province experienced abnormally powerful fires this year.
“The hot dry temperatures, mixed with forecasted dry lightning has increased the risk of wildfires throughout much of British Columbia,” provincial Emergency Management Minister Bowinn Ma told a briefing on Thursday.
The Pacific province has issued a warning that the upcoming 24 to 48 hours may prove to be the most difficult in terms of fires this year.